Blues Magoos







Formed in the Bronx, New York, USA, in 1964 and initially known as The Trenchcoats, the founding line-up consisted of Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm, vocals, guitar, Dennis LaPore, lead guitar, Ralph Scala, organ and vocals, Ronnie Gilbert, bass and John Finnegan, drums . The group quickly became an important part of the emergent Greenwich Village rock scene and in 1966 secured a residency at the fabled Night Owl club. Near the end of '66, the band was calling itself "Bloos Magoos" and Mike Esposito was brought in as their new lead guitarist. Esposito had at one time been in a college band with Lou Reed, and his inventive guitar playing, utilizing controlled feedback and tape-echo devices, added a new dimension to the group's sound. Having recorded flop singles for Ganim and Verve Records, the band was signed to Mercury Records, where they became the subject of intense grooming. Drummer Geoff Daking replaced LaPore in time to record their debut album, "Psychedelic Lollipop", which was released in November 1966. The band was now using a more traditional spelling of their name, "Blues Magoos".

In February of 1967, Mercury released a single called "We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet", written by band members, Gilbert, Scala and Esposito. The song was a Top Twenty hit for the 'Magoos' in America and finished at number 72 for the entire year, but failed to achieve the same success in the UK.

A follow up hit was even harder to come by for the Magoos and their next effort, "There's A Chance We Can Make It" was mostly ignored. Subsequent efforts, "One By One" , "I Wanna Be There" and "Life is Just a Cher O'Bowlies" also failed to gain any attention. One last single release on Mercury called "I Can Hear The Grass Grow", issued in 1968, also missed the charts. By now, tensions were growing among the members of the band and the original line up split.

On the strength of their name alone, the band's management team re-signed the group to ABC Records, and, as Thielhelm had accumulated a backlog of material, suggested he front a revamped line-up. John Leillo played vibes, Eric Kaz was now on keyboards, Roger Eaton played bass and Richie Dickon became the drummer. In 1969, the band completed the album "Never Goin' Back To Georgia", while the same group, except for Eaton, was augmented by session musicians for the disappointing 1970 LP, "Gulf Coast Bound". Neither of these sold well and after hanging on for another two years, The Blues Magoos packed it in.

Thielhelm took a role in the rock musical Hair using the name Peppy Castro. He has since pursued a varied career as a member of Barnaby Bye, Wiggy Bits and Balance, while Cher and Kiss are among the artists who have recorded his songs. Organist, Eric Kaz went on to form American Flyer.

On November 9th, 2000, The Blues Magoos, featuring Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm and Ralph Scala played at a garage band revival show called "Cavestomp". In July 2008, Blues Magoos, with original members Ralph Scala, Castro and Geoff Daking, reunited for the first time in years for two concerts, including one with The Zombies at the Fillmore New York. In December 2009 they traveled to Spain for the Purple Weekend festival.

In 2012, The Blues Magoos were slated to release their first new album in 41 years, titled "Psychedelic Resurrection". A Nationwide tour was scheduled to follow.

Although they were only "one hit wonders", Blues Magoos, with their electric suits and giant, onstage lava lamps, are fondly remembered as a classic example of the "psychedelic" music era.

Be sure to read Gary James' Interview With The Blues Magoos' Ralph Scala